A Soldotna businessman charged with scamming his clients out of thousands of dollars was sentenced Friday afternoon.
Judge Peter Ashman sentenced Ed Byford to a six year sentence with three years suspended. A jury found Byford guilty on charges of scheme to defraud, theft, and deceptive business felony charges in late May.
“It’s not the maximum sentence, but a real jail sentence,” Ashman said. “... I think in every way possible we need to tell Mr. Byford that his conduct is unacceptable, and that civilized people in a community ... don’t steal and cheat each other.”
Byford waived his right to comment before being sentenced.
The sentence included 10 years of probation for the contractor who knowingly schemed numerous clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars when he promised to build them houses through his company Prefab Log Homes and then neglected to do so.
Charges of scheme to defraud, first-degree theft and deceptive business practices were merged into a single charge of scheme to defraud, a class “B” felony, following recommendation from state attorney Devoron Hill.
“To have your money jerked out from under you by the stock market is horrifying. To have it jerked out from under you by the malicious act of an individual is shameful,” Ashman said during sentencing Friday.
Prison is usually reserved for violent criminals, people who will go out and cause physical harm, Ashman said. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on Byford’s investigation and providing him defense in the case. The court cannot do anything to help Byford’s victims, so to deter Byford from committing similar acts, and to send a message to those who may be committing similar crimes, jail time was warranted, Ashman said.
Prior to sentencing, Ed Kock, who Byford defrauded, recommended the 10-year probation period. He also asked for a longer jail sentence.
Kock contracted with Byford in October 2004 for the purpose of constructing a two-story log home — the upstairs for his daughter, son, and grandson, and the downstairs for he and his wife. Kock explained how Byford took $54,750 from him supposedly to pay for logs to build the home. But, Kock never received any logs, nor did he receive a log home from Byford. What he did receive was a shoddy foundation laden with cracks and other structural abnormalities, which he had to pay an additional $3,600 out of his own pocket to have removed.
As part of his sentence, Byford was ordered to provide financial compensation to his alleged victims. Byford has yet to offer any such compensation. Ashman contends the victims may never get compensation.
Kock said he was satisfied overall with the judge’s sentence, but contends a longer jail sentence is deserved.
“The way it sounds right now is that he has no remorse for how he ripped people off,” he said. “I just think that it’s time things came to an end and hope that he can live the way he’s been treating people.”
Byford is scheduled to begin his sentence no later than Dec. 1, but it is likely he will appeal the sentence.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at email@example.com.